Extreme penalties for extreme offences

19:12, Feb 19 2014

It is a good general rule to live by: be wary of those who would simply lock them up and throw away the key. Those who hold such extreme views can be just as dangerous, maybe even more so, than those whose liberty they would so dearly love to end.

But having espoused that, there remains a certain category of wrongdoer for whom some form of extended incarceration, possibly even for the rest of their lives, is perhaps a reasonable option if the rest of us are to be kept safe.

Seriously limiting their rights remains a justifiable response to protect our right to peace and safety.

Earlier this week we published a story about a 47-year-old man who has now been convicted 18 times for drink driving. He is just one of five men to hold such an appalling record. But they are just the tip of an alcohol-soaked iceberg of hardened drinkers who care little for themselves, let alone dramatic anti-drinking campaigns and the mayhem and death they might cause on the roads.

People like our 47-year-old, Darren Newport, who was already facing a court summons for drink-driving when he was stopped again, in a different car.

Or Gavin Hawthorn, a notorious drink driver who has killed four people in two separate accidents.


As Malcolm Barnett, the father of an 18-year-old girl killed by a driver high on P and spokesman for Cross Roads, says, "The law of averages says one day they are going to kill someone." Maybe even four.

Some believe the answer is to disable the offender's vehicle with an alcohol interlock, or remove the person's licence and vehicle altogether.

But as Newport has proved, those who care little for others, society and its rules, can find other vehicles, other weapons. And what is also clear is that the convictions represent only the times such men as Newport and Hawthorn were caught.

So the answer is not to target the car but to hold the person themselves to greater account. There is a justification for considering preventive detention for these thankfully rare alcohol-addicted criminals who clearly show no empathy for the impact of their offending or desire to stop combining their drinking with driving.

Sentencing these unrepentant alcoholics on wheels to finite terms simply loads up the roulette wheel once again and increases the odds they will kill or injure after another drinking session. Hawthorn killed Lance Fryer in 2003 following his release for the manslaughter of three other people in 1989.

The alternative is for police to sit on our worst drink drivers to ensure they don't fall off the wagon. That in itself is a compromise of their rights, but it is also not fool-proof. As drink-driver Raymond Hansen proved in 2005, when he evaded police surveillance and ploughed into a van on the Normanby overbridge, killing three people.

No, best to do it properly with our very worst drink-drivers. Lock them up and place the key somewhere very hard to find.

Taranaki Daily News